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Technology and Magic

Technology and Magic

I finally acquiesced to being old. Okay, maybe not that far, but I realize I need help. I can’t write as fast as I used to. That’s probably because of accidents I’ve had in my misspent youth, which means that I can’t really type that fast.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’ve always been a slow typist.

The Dead Type Faster Than I Do

This guy types faster than I do.

I had a coworker once claim that the only people who can type slower than I can, is the dead. And since I’m not a necromancer, nor do I know any necromancers around, I can truly say that that has never been tested. So, I constantly say that the dead type faster than I do. It elicits chuckles, but it is a definite problem when you’re a writer.

Being a Slow Typer and a Prolific Writer

You would think that being a slow typer and a prolific writer would be mutually exclusive. Au contraire. The truth is I never had a typing course. Of course, my mom wanted me to take typing in school, but I decided that taking a typing course in high school was the equivalent of acquiescing to a secretarial job. That was something I had no desire to do.

But, I didn’t really think about how much I would type as a software engineer, which was originally my chosen profession. If I had been thinking straight ā€” and who think straight when their 15 to 18 years old? ā€” I would’ve realized that taking Typing I would have been useful for writing programs.

Sending Typewriters to the Graveyard

Welp, my typewriters were never this bad.

Furthermore, as a budding author, I had already burned up at least two home typewriters. It got so bad that my dad ended up getting an old style IBM Selectric. (Not the cool IBM Selectrics that we still see occasionally in offices. Oh no, this was one with a movable carriage return. If I had thought it wasn’t cool at the time, it still managed to outlast my budding attempts at authorship. It managed to survive at least one poorly written novel, and maybe another one. I don’t remember, because it was that long ago.

Word Processors and Computers

The goddess of obsolescence and all the computers my coworkers bought for thousands of dollars.

You would think once I was out in the real workforce, I would buy a computer. Ah, you’re assuming that I actually lived during a time when computers were relatively inexpensive. Ha!

As a software engineer, I was making $27,000 a year, which was average for a new hire. IBM ATs, and eventually XTs, ran in the thousands of dollars. Like four or $5000. If you compare what I made to how much a brand-new IBM would cost, which didn’t have any of the nifty apps that we have nowadays, and had to be programmed in Basic for the most part, you can see my reticence for purchasing one.

I think you could also program them in assembly language, which wasn’t particularly fun to do. Plus quite honestly, why the fuck would I program at home, when that was what I was doing at work?

So, when Brother word processors became a thing, I wrote several articles and even a couple of books on one.

Why I’m Telling You All This

Dragon explaining how I’m doing it wrong.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why I’m taking you on a boring trip down memory lane. It’s because after several times of using Dragon NaturallySpeaking on various computers, I’ve ended up with a subscription on an app on a tablet.

And it seems like fucking magic. Except when you try to have it say the word, “Fuck.” Dragon NaturallySpeaking seems to have an aversion to swear words. Which is bucking cool. Buck buck buck. ā€” See what I mean?

Dragon NaturallySpeaking used to be meh when it came to figuring out words. Now, it’s positively brilliant.

And this is when technology has bridged the gap to magic.

When Technology can be Mistaken for Magic

Just me taking my Orcs out for a walk.

At this point, you’re saying that magic is magic and technology is technology. I’d agree with you, except throughout history, humans have always depicted their gods with the same technology they use. Case in point: armor, weapons, clothing, and household goods. Our gods’ abilities seem to coincide with ours, with the exception of “magic.”

Could it be, we depict our gods’ the way we can only understand at that time given the current level of technology, and not really how are gods are? It’s an interesting thought.

When we depict our gods, we depict them as creatures from a thousand years ago. And yet, are we to say that we as humans are more technologically advanced than the Nordic gods? That are gods don’t have access to technology that we do? Do we depict Thor with Viking weapons and armor, or maybe it would be better to depict him with full battle-rattle and an AR-15? Mjolnir as a rifle? OMGs.

To take this further — are Idun’s apples are actually some type of longevity medicine? Do the gods ride in cars instead of chariots? Freyja in a Jaguar; Thor in a GTO? Hugin and Mugin are drones for Odin? I mean, I can go on and on with this.

And if I’ve made your brain hurt, that’s okay. Because what the flock? Uh, I mean…buck. I mean FUCK!!

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Heathenry, Unplugged

Heathenry, Unplugged

I’m really a technophile, despite all my attempts at leading a semi-subsistence lifestyle. I was one of the folks who helped bring about the whole technological revolution we see today, (don’t get too excited–lots of people did more than I did). Even so, if I had been smarter with money than I had with technology, I probably would be in some huge place enjoying retirement rather than working for a living.  Ah, hindsight being 20/20.

Technology Addictions

That being said, one of my not-so-secret addictions is technology.  No, I don’t have to have the latest and greatest things, but I wouldn’t object if someone handed them to me to play with. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on my laptop and now, my cellphone. A goodly portion of it is for work, but let’s face it, with Netflix and Hulu, I get some entertainment there.  I wouldn’t be putting out this little Heathen blog without computers and the Internet.  So, it has become a necessity.

Before the Dark Times.  Before the Silicon Chip…

 And yet, I remember a time without computers.  (I can hear your collective gasps as you read this: “Just how fucking old is the Rational Heathen?”) Okay, computers existed, but they filled government and University server rooms. You used punch tape and punch cards and printers.  My first experience with computers was an HP that had 1 MB of RAM that was time shared with 33 other users across the state. Hey!  That was downtown!

I was one of the few holdouts who looked for payphones to make phone calls.  Even now, it has flummoxed my sisters that I don’t text (try explaining the lack of cell service where I live.) So, I am a techno-savvy Luddite.  Yes, eventually even I have to stay connected.

Getting on Point

I’m not going to wax eternal about the halcyon days of the days before computers, the Internet, and cellphones, but I am going to talk about what it is doing to us as a species. Nowadays, we rely on computers to entertain us, keep our knowledge, and teach us things. Unfortunately, the more we use the technology, the more we rely on the technology.  The more we rely on the technology, the more we can’t do the things we need to know if we are to survive should there not be that technology present.

Luddites and Stone Carvers

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Surely there were Luddites out there when the printing press was invented, stating that if we use printing presses, people will forget how to use calligraphy.  Or maybe when paper was used, the stone carvers were up in arms because vellum could be destroyed, whereas stone was nearly forever.  I can just hear the stone carver telling his son, “I don’t care how portable that contraption is!  It’ll burn, and then you’ll have nothing! You’ll see!”

Somehow the portability and convenience won out.  We figured out ways around having paper being burnt up, although there were certainly setbacks (i.e., the library at Alexandria), but for the most part we got beyond it.  We made copies.  We treated fragile manuscripts with care (we still do).  But having repositories on computers make works more accessible to more people. We simply have to be more careful with the original.

Nothing demonstrates this more than with our own Declaration of Independence.  The original was damaged sometime in the early 20th century in an attempt to make it more legible and the writing continues to fade even though great care has been taken to preserve it.  Yes, we have made copies, but having the ability to read it right from the computer is important, too.  It gives us accessibility.

Where I’m Going with This

Technology has its place.  I know this.  But technology isn’t everything.  When I was growing up, we were promised technology would fix our problems.  Well, certain problems, it has, but it has caused more problems.  You see, the basic issue isn’t the technology: it’s us.  We mortal, organic creatures are limited by our very nature–a nature that we’re getting farther and farther away from over time.

The past few days I’ve been in a blend of technology and nature (a weird mix, to be sure).  I’ve been hunting turkeys. I’ve been working on projects on the computer.  I’ve been getting new goats.  I’ve been butchering a chicken and cooking it.  I’ve been milking goats and collecting eggs.  I’ve been setting up a podcasting studio.  I’ve been enjoying the beauty of the arrowleaf balsamroots and glacier lilies that have exploded in color.  Everything I’ve been doing has been taking up my time, and yet, I’ve been living in two different worlds.

The Peacefulness of Nature

Despite the hard work of hand milking, I really enjoy peacefulness.  I’m working with the animals, who really don’t care what I’m writing–they only care about getting grain and getting their udders relieved of pressure. I am outside, in the forest where my home resides, and enjoy feeling the sun on my face and see the deer and other critters around me.

It can be peaceful or stressful, depending on the circumstance.  We have some very big predators here: wolves, coyotes, black bear, grizzlies, and mountain lions.  The mountain can kill you if you aren’t careful: the weather can turn deadly in a heartbeat for those unprepared.  Then, there are the even present threat of wildfires.

Unplug for a While, and Be Present

But there is something to being with nature, despite all the hazards. And there is something to being unplugged, at least for a while.  Imagine, if you would, nobody calling you, texting you, no social media to interrupt you. Just be present in the moment.  Look around.  Admire what the gods have created and feel what it’s like to just be alive.  Sometimes just doing that is all you need to connect with them.  That’s how I finally connected with Skadi, after many years of trying without success. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I’ve found if you open yourself up to the gods, they may just come to you.

Accept what they offer, even if it is only a feeling, a word, or a thought.  The more time you spend with them, the more often you may hear them.  And isn’t that what Heathenry is really about?

Has Religion become Irrelevant?

Has Religion become Irrelevant?

Has religion become irrelevant? This is an odd question for a Heathen to ask others who believe in our gods, but it is a serious question.  Those of you who have read this blog for any length of time are probably rolling your eyes and sighing because I came from fairly agnostic to almost atheist beliefs, only to be yanked into Heathenry by a few gods.  Don’t get your panties in a wad; I still consider myself a Heathen.  But this question of Has religion become irrelevant? echoes this pronouncement by the National Geographic.  So, like most things that I write, I’m going to be trodding on some toes here.

The Fastest Growing “Religion”

The fastest growing religion in developed countries isn’t a religion at all. It’s what those wankers who compile statistics refer to as “nones.”  The “nones” are those without a religious affiliation, i.e., agnostics, atheists, and those who just don’t care. They’re such a growing force that they’re considered the second largest “religious” affiliation in half the nations around the world, including the United States, the bastion of Christianity.

It’s not surprising that some underdeveloped countries and former communist countries have had an increase in religion, but overall in developed countries, religion isn’t growing.  If there’s good news to be had by the pagan religions, the non-Christian faiths have grown 1.2 percent in the United States.  That’s pretty small in my book, when you consider all non-Christian faiths make up a little under 6 percent in this country.  However, we’re looking at nearly 71 percent of Americans consider themselves Christian in some way.

Why People Don’t Believe

I read through the article and it had some interesting points. People are quick to point to science as the reason more people are leaving the churches, and they’re not entirely wrong.  As science is able to provide answers, it becomes apparent that those things that people long ago thought were miracles or impossible are actually quite explainable.  But although science had a lot to do with secularism, the ability for the skeptic to meet with other skeptics online and in person helps solidify the feelings of there being no god or gods is probably a stronger pull. After all, people usually feel closer to their gods when they are together and praying than alone. (I said usually.) It helps to have people who believe the same things you do around to strengthen your beliefs (or lack thereof). The other reason for lack of belief has to do with education. The more educated you are, the less likely you’ll believe in a deity or deities. (This isn’t to say that highly educated people don’t believe in a god or gods.  This simple shows that there is a correlation between education and atheism.)

Science, Dammit!

I talk quite a bit about science, and quite honestly, I tend to accept scientific explanations over things that are often called supernatural.  Too often people make up stories about things and they’re retold as fact, but the reality is that without critical thinking and scientific proof, it’s just old wives’ tales and urban legends.

As science and technology continue to advance, less and less natural phenomena is ascribed to the supernatural. The Earth revolves around the sun.  We do not have a sun which has a tangible chariot being driven by Sunna across the sky, nor is the moon carried in a physical chariot across the sky driven by Mani.  The sun and moon appear to move across the sky because of the rotation of the Earth. But neither are fixed.  The moon rotates around the Earth, and the sun is moving and dragging us along in the Sagittarius Arm at 45,000 miles per hour.

Does Religion and Science Conflict?

It’s easy with the talk of science to discount religion in its entirety. Religion was often used to answer the tough questions of the universe: How did we get here? How was the earth made? In much earlier times, people told stories to explain how these things happened.  They weren’t accurate or factual, but they were satisfying stories and were told by people to others in a way to understand the world around them. 

Logic and reasoning gradually took hold.  As we searched for answers, we eventually came up with theories that fit the overall evidence that we found. As our methods and testing became more advanced, we could actually accept the theories as fact, or near fact.  Stories about Odin and his brothers forming humans from trees are interesting, but we know from archaeology that humans evolved over millions of years to what we are now.

Religion and science often clashed over dogma, especially when the Roman Catholic Church held power. Heretics were often excommunicated, or worse. But facts are facts. People can claim that the world is flat all they want, but because the world is really round, eventually the truth wins out.

Is Religion Relevant?

So, the question remains is if religion is still relevant when we have science to explain nature and the physical laws of the universe. More and more religion has taken to explaining what is in the gaps rather than coincide with what we know is true.  Known as the “god of the gaps” or divine fallacy among atheists, many religious types use that as a reason for why their god(s) exist. It goes something like, “well we don’t know what started the big bang, therefore the Christian God  (or name your favorite creator god, i.e., Yahweh, Odin, Atum, Vishnu, etc) must have created it.”  It’s a fallacy because it assumes that we won’t find an answer.

If we take our myths at face value, we can say with certainty that they are wrong. The gods didn’t carve humans from trees; the Earth isn’t the bones and body of some frost giant named Ymir.  But if we take them at a metaphorical level, we begin to see the mindset and even the understanding of our ancestors and recognize certain elements in them that science postulates is true.

Let’s look at another religion, for the sake of argument. The number of miracles the Christian god has performed has decreased rapidly with the advent of cameras.  When multiple people can record video on their cellphones, it’s hard to claim supernatural occurrences.  Those who do are highly suspect due to clever video editing. They often use pseudo-science to back up claims. In other words, I suspect a large portion of their magic is just fallacy, wishful thinking, and outright falsehoods.

I use the Christian god as an example because so many in the United States call themselves Christian, but the statement holds true for pagans in general. I haven’t seen any of the M-word* that convinces me that it truly exists that can’t be rationally explained through science in some fashion.  (Granted it may be in areas such as quantum physics, but it may be able to be explained.)

That being said, I’ve experienced enough weird shit as a Heathen that hasn’t been captured on video because I don’t go around with a cellphone taking video of everything I see.  Even if I did, it happen so fleetingly that I couldn’t have picked up my phone fast enough to capture it. Some isn’t visual. Some happens in my head and my dreams.  

I suspect religion and our belief system will remain relevant largely because we’re human, and we may not be able to know everything there is out there. Even if science figures out everything about our universe, there are other dimensions and other universes out there, if one is to believe in the multiverse. If there is just one universe but it is infinite, then there is even more weirdness that we can’t possibly wrap our heads around because it is bigger than we can ever reach in billions of lifetimes.

The TL;DR Takeaway

Gods, if you’ve gotten this far on this post, I must thank you.  If you’ve skipped everything I said above, go back and read it.

So, what do I think?  I believe that the gods and probably religion will remain relevant as long as we are human. They may morph over time and may just become metaphors, or they may grow with our knowledge.

At this time, I’m willing to accept that there are other beings, more powerful than ourselves, who either set in motion the creation of our Universe, or are manifestations of the very forces they wield. We know that string theory insists that there are at least 10 dimensions, and maybe more.  Who knows what is hiding in those areas we can’t see?

Yeah, maybe it is the god of the gaps fallacy written large. But all I know was I was willing to stand by my agnosticism until Tyr and Thor pulled me into Heathenry.  At some point, you’ve got to make a decision about your beliefs.  I know I did.

*M-word = magic

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